Everything You Need to Know about watchOS 5: Release Date, Compatibility, Top Features & More

The wait is over, and we finally know which watchOS 5 features were just rumors and which features we can look forward to enjoying later this year. Apple spent far more time highlighting the features of iOS 12 and mac OS Mojave than it did showing off the upcoming watchOS 5 update during the WWDC 2018 Keynote on June 4. Even so, there are enough cool new features to make most Apple Watch fans happy. And there are a lot of fans; Apple Watch adoption also grew by a whopping 60 percent in the last year, likely thanks to the introduction of a cellular model. Here's everything you need to know about the next iteration of watchOS, from the watchOS 5 release date, to which Apple Watch models will be able to run watchOS 5, and which features you should be most excited about.

Related: Apple Watch Series 4: Rumors, Release Date & Features

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watchOS 5 Release Date

Expect Apple to release watchOS 5 at the same time or shortly after it releases iOS 12. Since Apple usually releases its latest version of iOS shortly after its September iPhone announcement, a mid-to-late September watchOS 5 release is a good guess. Last year watchOS 4 and iOS 11 were both released on September 19, which was a few days before the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were released.

Apple Watch Model Compatibility

If you want to update to watchOS 5, you will need an iPhone 5s or later running iOS 12. All Apple Watch models except the original Apple Watch will be compatible with watchOS 5: 

  • Apple Watch Series 1
  • Apple Watch Series 2
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)

Owners of the first Apple Watch will need to upgrade if they want to enjoy the new features included in the watchOS update.

Top watchOS 5 Features

Workout App 

  • Activity competitions: watchOS 5 will let watch users challenge friends they share activity with to seven-day activity competitions.
  • New workouts: watchOS 5 adds tracking for Yoga and Hiking.
  • New running features: Runners will be happy to finally have the run-tracking features other trackers have offered for a while on the Apple Watch, including cadence tracking for indoor and outdoor runs, pace alarms for outdoor runs to alert runners when they are falling behind, and rolling mile pace tracking. 
  • Auto-workout detection: Anyone who has forgotten to start or stop workout tracking on their watch will be happy to know that beginning with watchOS 5, the Apple Watch will automatically detect when workouts begin and end and sends an alert and give credit for the workout.

Audio Playback

  • Podcast App: Apple is finally fixing a major oversight and adding the Apple Podcast app to the Apple Watch for offline listening directly from the watch. 
  • Third-Party Apps: In addition, developers of music, audiobooks and meditation apps will be able to allow users to sync content from their iPhone to their Apple Watch for offline playback.

Siri

  • Raise wrist to activate Siri: Apple Watch users will no longer have to say, "Hey Siri," any time they want to use the digital assistant on their Apple Watch. Instead, they can simply raise their wrist and start talking.
  • Siri Watch Face Improvements: Siri will use machine learning, along with any shortcuts users have set up in iOS 12 to offer proactive suggestions such as heart rate information after a workout, ordering suggestions at the time of day a user typically orders coffee, traffic information at the time they usually leave work, etc. 

More:

  • New Walkie-Talkie feature: In watchOS 5, Apple Watch can be used to talk with close family and friends just like a walkie-talkie but using Wi-Fi and cellular connections.
  • Student ID: The Apple Watch will replace physical Student IDs for Apple Watch users at select universities this year. Presumably, Apple will expand to as many universities as possible in the near future, thus roping huge numbers of college students into the Apple ecosystem.
  • Interactive Notifications. Take action within notifications from third-party apps. 
  • Customizable Control Center: iOS 11 made it possible for iPhone users to customize their control centers and now watchOS 5 will let Apple Watch users choose the order items appear in their watch Control Center.
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Sarah Kingsbury is the Senior Web Editor of iPhone Life magazine. Previously she wrote for savvyvegetarian.com and was the Associate Editor of the Iowa Source for many years.